Visitors see the world of nursing as Nurses Week concludes


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Visitors walking in nurses' shadows learned Friday that while nurses need to have technical and medical skills, those talents don't mean a lot if they're not applied with love and compassion.

National Nurse's Week concluded Friday at WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital with "Walk a Mile with a Nurse," an opportunity for visitors to follow a nurse as they go about their daily routines and learn about the work they do and the challenges they face every day.

Tim Anderson, the hospital's vice president and chief nursing officer, welcomed participants and showed them the Johnson & Johnson video "Nurses Change Lives." Available on YouTube, the short presentation highlights the contributions nurses such as Florence Nightingale, regarded as one of the founders of modern nursing, and others contributed to advances in medicine. The video also showcases how these nurses often defied medical conventions and put themselves at risk to help others.

Anderson said that seeing nurses demonstrate love and compassion is his "expectation number one."

"In this day and time, you have to have love and compassion," he said. "Unless you show love and compassion, you're missing the mark."

Visitors shadowed nurses that morning in a variety of departments. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph spent part of the morning with Nurse Teal Cole, RN, BSN and CEN in the Emergency Room (ER) Department.

"Well, we get people in here in the ER, critical patients. We work them up. We try to rule out the emergencies. If everything's OK we discharge them out or if they need to stay we'll keep them. If we need to, we'll transport them out."

"I've been a nurse a total of 12 years, but an RN for four years," she said. "I've always wanted to be in the medical profession as a child. My dad was a paramedic. I have a cousin who was a paramedic as well, so I've just always wanted to do it. I enjoy helping and taking care of people. I enjoy working in Princeton at the ER. I enjoy taking care of people at their most critical times. Some days are harder than others."

Cole usually works a 12-hour shift, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"It's not too bad," she said after her shift got underway Friday. "I enjoy it. You never know what's going to roll in through the doors. I'm an adrenaline junkie and I love it."

The nurses' station, which is behind glass, resembles a 911 center. Nurses were working on updating files and performing other tasks. Cole said the quiet atmosphere could disappear quickly.

"Right now it's not too bad," Cole said when she stopped at her computer. "The calm before the storm. You just don't know what's coming through the doors. It could be somebody's worst day in their life and it feels good to help them."

It's hard to predict what sort of medical emergencies the ER team will have to address.

"When it's crazy, it's crazy for sure, but we have a really good team in the emergency department," Cole said. "We get cardiac, we get trauma, strokes. You name it, we see it."

A patient suffering pains that were possibly from a kidney stone arrived at the ER. Cole questioned him about the pain and other symptoms while a medic and student, Daniel Pennington, joined her. She watched while Pennington prepared an IV for the patient.

Back at Cole's station, Pennington said he had been an EMT and chaplain with the Princeton Rescue Squad for three years. When he finishes his current training program, he will be able to test nationally to be a paramedic; thus, he can fulfill medical and spiritual needs.

"She's a good one to follow," Pennington said about working with Cole, adding that the hospital's proximity to the rescue squad and the nursing programs at Bluefield State University, Concord University and New River Community and Technical College is helpful, too.

"This is a prime location for a lot of those schools to do what they need to do," he said.

Cole and Pennington returned to the patient and gave him a Tylenol IV to relieve his pain. Cole then talked to Dr. Steven Stefancic MD about the patient.

Four of the ER's rooms were assigned to Cole. One had a patient, but usually all four are occupied, she said. When the ER is busy, the sickest patients are the ones who need attention first. Triage, determining each arriving patient's condition and needs, helps determine who needs treatment first.

"It's all about prioritizing," she said. "Who is the sickest?"

One aspect of nursing visitors wonder about is how nurses manage to remember all the technical knowledge and techniques needed to help their patients.

"It just kind of comes second nature," Cole said while updating the new patient's chart. "After a while, everything just comes to you. Just repetitive. Muscle memory."

The fact there were not a lot of patients requiring attention gave Cole a chance to update her files. This is part of time management in the ER.

"So you use your time wisely to get it done," she said. "Because you might get tied up with a critical patient for a few hours. You've got to be able to critically think under pressure moments."

Like Pennington, Cole is also undergoing more training for a new role. She is currently learning to be a critical care flight registered nurse.

They care for patients being transported by helicopter to other hospitals. These helicopter ambulances arrive and leave at Princeton Community almost every day.

"I'm super excited," Cole said. "I've always wanted to do that. I've always had an interest in field EMS."

Contact Greg Jordan at

Contact Greg Jordan at